Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 385–406 | Cite as

Making Marriage Promotion into Public Policy: The Epistemic Culture of a Statewide Initiative

  • Melanie HeathEmail author


Though political sociologists have sought to understand how self-interest influences politics and policymaking, little research has examined the mechanisms involved in the relationship between constructing knowledge and forming policy. This article extends the concept of epistemic culture to the field of policymaking to uncover the mechanisms of knowledge production in policy formation. It offers an extended case study of government marriage promotion policies that seek to fund and disseminate marriage education among poor couples with the goal of lifting them out of poverty. Based on an ethnography of a statewide marriage initiative in Oklahoma, this article maps out the parameters of an epistemic culture of marriage promotion shaped by three mechanisms: 1) The articulation of connections between policy, commonsense ideas, and extant epistemologies; 2) The formation of policy that consolidates research findings to quell controversy; and 3) The creation of networks to convince relevant actors of the importance of marriage promotion policy.


Marriage promotion Public policy Epistemic culture Knowledge 



I want to thank to Neil McLaughlin for his helpful comments on this article. Thanks also to editor David Smilde and to three anonymous reviewers for their time and input. The research this article draws on was funded by a dissertation grant from the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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